On Tuesday, I had an interesting telephone interview with Kevin Mahon, CEO of KEMP Technologies. I have to admit that I don't usually think of load balancers as SMB product, but KEMP has been making a business in SMB load balancing for several years, now. In talking with Kevin, I started to understand a bit of why SMB IT folks look at load balancers, and why the balanced SMB isn't such a strange idea, after all.
First, Kevin says that there have been changes to the profile of "average" KEMP customers. In the group of first customers, most were very small companies with 2 – 3 servers, companies that were looking for a mechanism to provide high availability to the company's critical data. As time has gone on, SMBs have grown to require 10 – 15 servers. With the growth in server count comes growth in functional needs, and the load-balancing technology has moved from round-robin to resource sharing with weighted distribution based on server activity. Kevin also pointed to terminal server load balancing as an area that customers have expressed great interest in--an area that speaks to the needs for simplified desktop deployment and consistent performance (not to mention some significant security implications).
When I asked Keving about virtualization, he said that virtualization is coming to the SMB market because SMBs can see a lot of benefits from the technology. He said that KEMP already has a couple of customers that have begun deploying virtualized servers and resources. He said that, even with virtualization, he still sees the load balancer used in its principle role of providing high availability and SSL. High availability is a clear need regardless of the size of the companies in the market space. Beyond the availability, Kein said that performance isn't the key, with customers instead focusing on they fact that they want to maximize the utilization of the resources they have. When I asked about the differences between SMBs and enterprise customers, Kevin told me that enterprises want to maximize their connectivity -- get them most out of the pipes that connect them to the Internet. The basic issue for SMB is the same, but the size of the resource changes – cable modems or T1 versus the T3 and up of the enterprise.
It was a fascinating conversation, one more in a series of discussions with vendor execs in which I'm hearing that SMB IT is the same as enterprise IT in everything but scale -- SMB owners want the same sort of functionality and quality in their IT services that enterprise CIOs take for granted. From security to virtualization, to taking advantage of software as a service, SMB organizations are demanding serious IT -- and getting it.
Speaking of that last point, I was in a long meeting with a vendor today -- you'll hear about it next week when I fill you in on some new products and talk about a review that's now under way in the Test Center.